After a few convincing wins against elite competition from both NHL conferences, the Chicago Blackhawks certainly regressed on their quick two game road trip against both the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild.
The team is off for a few days, returning home to face the Winnipeg Jets Sunday. Not only have the Blackhawks dominated Winnipeg all season, but Winnipeg will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Despite what looks like a reprieve on the surface, the Blackhawks have looked awful the past two contests, taking Detroit to overtime but failing to score until Patrick Kane ended his 12-game scoreless streak with 31.2 seconds remaining.
Yet, it was far too little far too late. The team will hopefully regain Duncan Keith, and although he’s not being moved from the top line, the same certainty cannot be said for many of the Blackhawks’ forwards. Late desperation by Coach Joel Quenneville was likely the first indication that major changes are likely coming, and even the top line may be broken up.
If anything, Quenneville is going to keep his fourth line intact, despite movement within the top six. All this is speculation at this point, but Quenneville has gone with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in times of struggle, which he once again did tonight.
On the second line, Andrew Shaw should stay based on performance, although he had a rough game tonight, like many of his teammates. Coupled with Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks would have a formidable top six once again.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks’ system itself is capable of major switches such as this with minimal repercussions. A mix of puck possession with hard forechecking has eluded the Blackhawks for the past two games, but can be regained thanks to line switches and a strong opening period upon their homecoming to the United Center.
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